Toyota Gazoo Racing Le Mans Victory – Buemi, Nakajima and Alonso Win 24-Hour Race

By Steve & Tamami Laser

Toyota Gazoo Racing took the checkered flag in historic first and second place victories today at the 86th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s been a long and winding road for Toyota at the classic endurance race. Prior to this weekend’s event, Toyota had entered 47 cars at Le Mans during 20 races and finished on the podium six times.

Starting from pole position in the #8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid, Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima, and Fernando Alonso won the race following 388 laps of the La Sarthe circuit. The wins help to extend their lead in the 2018-19 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC). Finishing in second place in car #7, Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, and José María López, who were in the lead for long stretches of the race, made it a one-two finish for Toyota.

The team entered the two 1,000 hp TS050 Hybrid cars that use about 35 percent less fuel than in 2012 when they entered their first hybrid car, thanks to constant improvement in the efficiency of the hybrid electric powertrain. Kinetic energy recovery is said to be a key factor in achieving the improvement with energy generated under braking harvested by powerful motor/generators on both axles and converted into electrical energy, which is deployed under acceleration to save fuel and deliver performance.

It’s time to celebrate! This video highlights the winning ways of Toyota Gazoo Racing at the 86th Le Mans 24 Hours. (video: Toyota Motorsport GmbH)

Toyota says that new regulations this season give private LMP1 teams, who do not use hybrid technology, 210.9 MJ per lap of Le Mans compared to the 124.9 MJ available to the TS050 Hybrid, together with 8 MJ of hybrid electric energy. Fuel flow for the TS050 is also restricted, to 80 kg per hour compared to 100 kg/h for the competition in a further move to strengthen the non-hybrid cars, which are allowed to run 45 kgs lighter.

“Thank you for driving all out!” said Akio Toyoda, President, Toyota Motor Corp. “Please let me direct these words to our drivers, who drove our cars for the longest distance at Le Mans, finally in our 20th challenge. I want to enjoy the great feeling today with all fans that have supported us for a long time. Of course, this is another step towards the next challenge so I would like to ask your continuous support from now on too.”

Toyota says the race results are the culmination of intense and determined efforts by Gazoo Racing colleagues from Higashi-Fuji in Japan, and Cologne, Germany, to continually improve the hybrid electric technology which powers the TS050 racing cars.

“I am so proud of everyone in the team for this result,” said Hisatake Murata, Team President (second from left above facing camera). “It has been our dream to win Le Mans and finally we have achieved it. Thank you so much to everyone for their incredible hard work, team spirit and never-give-up attitude. To win Le Mans for Toyota after so many frustrations and disappointments is a truly magical moment.”

During the 24-hour race, the two Toyota Hybrids swapped the lead several times. Two stop-go penalties for the #8 car, compared to just one for #7, required Alonso to pour on the professionalism during his LeMans debut to get back into contention. A fuel issue late in the day dropped the #7 car from the lead lap, allowing Nakajima to cross the line with a two-lap lead from Kobayashi in the sibling car.

“This is definitely the biggest win of my career,” said Buemi (above right). “I struggle to realize it right now because in the last few laps I couldn’t forget 2016. To finally see the car crossing the line was really special. All the preparation that goes into this day from everyone in the team, when you finally win it, it is something really big so I will enjoy this.”

“It’s great to be here finally; it has been a long time,” said Nakajima (above center). “I had great teammates and Toyota gave us a very strong car. We finished the race without any issue on both cars so I feel we all deserved to win the race. To win this race has been a big dream for all of Toyota since 1985. There have been many people involved in this project so I am proud to be here to represent all that effort.”

“It has been amazing,” said Alonso (above left). “We know how important and iconic Le Mans is in the world of motorsport and as a team we achieved an amazing result. Every moment was a reminder of how tough and long this race is, anything can happen so we tried to execute our race and stay calm. Happily everything worked well. The race was hard because the two cars were very close, within one minute after 23 hours. We wanted a one-two and we achieved that so I am very happy.”

The team will enjoy a nine-week break prior to returning to action at the third round of the FIA World Endurance Championship on Aug. 17-19 at the 6 Hours of Silverstone.

News source and photos courtesy Toyota Gazoo Racing Co., Toyota Motor Corp., and Toyota (GB) PLC; video courtesy Toyota Motorsport GmbH

Story © 2018